Replacing things in the new year – part 2 (the scary story)

6 Feb

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about needing to replace things.  I also made a comment saying I wondered what else was going to need to be replaced.  Unfortunately, my premonition was correct.

The next thing to break – our main air conditioner/heater.

The air conditioner - estimated to be around 10 years old - which may have been the root of the problem

The air conditioner – estimated to be around 10 years old – which may have been the root of the problem

One Saturday morning I woke up and realized that we had forgotten to turn off the heater in the main room before going to bed.  It sounded a little funny and there was a bit of a strange smell.  I thought that it had quite literally “overheated” and so turned it off and didn’t think much more of it.

Later that day when I turned it on again, I still smelled the funny smell and so told my husband we needed to have the repairman come to check it out.  As loyal readers know – this past summer the air conditioner in our bedroom broke and it required the addition of more coolant so that was my self-diagnosis of what needed to happen again.

Li called the air conditioner hotline to ask a repairman to come – but their advice was that we first needed to clean the inside of the air conditioner to make sure that nothing was stuck inside and that would fix the smell.  After an hour of cleaning out the air conditioner – it was filthy and really needed it, we both thought the smell had disappeared for the most part and agreed to wait to see if it would improve.

The following Monday night we were watching TV together with the heater on and the fumes became overwhelming.  We both agreed that the next day the repairman needed to come.

I was working from home and when the repairman came I explained what I thought was the problem.  He added coolant, tweaked the internal computer and told me that I needed to run the air conditioner full blast with the doors/windows open for the rest of the day to clear the smell and make everything work.  In hindsight, that was not very good advice.

Because the weather was chilly, I bundled up in our small office and shut the door, warm inside the small room.  Simultaneously, I did as prescribed, opening the doors and windows to the main room – getting a good cross breeze – and putting the heat on at full blast.  A couple of hours later after I came out – I realized the air conditioner was no longer on, the smell was even more overwhelming and the circuit breaker had flipped.  I then, for the first time, looked carefully at the plug.

The plug

The plug

The plastic between the plug and the socket had completely melted through.  What I had been smelling the last several days was melting plastic – and we were only saved from fire by the fact that our circuit breaker was set appropriately!

I was scared to pull the plug out and so then had to call the electrician from my complex to come take a look.  He was finally able to get it out and luckily, that was about the time Li came home.  I abdicated responsibility to him as I had a previously scheduled dinner engagement and he had to go out and purchase a new plug, new socket and then get the electrician to replace both.

Would you use this plug?

Would you use this plug?

The source of the smell

The source of the smell

Getting home that evening I saw that all had been replaced, but it took me over a week to get comfortable turning the heater on again.  I still am a little skiddish, but right around Chinese New  Year there was a spate of warm weather – in the 50s – so we didn’t need to use it as much as during a normal January.

Hopefully I am now through replacing things for a while.  I also now know that I need to trust my instincts when there is something wrong and I should have insisted further when the repairman was there.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

What has been the strangest repair you’ve needed to do in your house/apartment?  This one is right up there for me.

22 Responses to “Replacing things in the new year – part 2 (the scary story)”

  1. myhongkonghusband February 6, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    oh God, that plug looks dangerous 😦

    • gkm2011 February 6, 2014 at 10:04 am #

      It was incredibly frightening! We were very lucky.

  2. jotsfromasmallapt February 6, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    After living in the UK and then returning to the U.S. to live….the new house we purchased was perfect in every way!! until winter hit and our furnace quite working altogether. Of course we had to have it replaced with a new one. On taking out the old, the repairman stated, “Of course it is broken and doesn’t work…it was installed upside down.” Enough said. Happy to hear, however, you didn’t have a major fire incident….

    • gkm2011 February 6, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

      Installing a heater upside down! That is another story for sure… I am glad it turned out ok as well, but those few days when we couldn’t figure out what was going on was pretty creepy!

  3. Giovannoni Claudine February 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    Hopefully you was able to fix it… it’s terrible to stay in the cold… and you don’t speak about a fireplace! Keep up the good mood and think positive… little by little things will get in order… I wish you all the best, hugs :-)claudine

    • gkm2011 February 6, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

      Unfortunately no fireplaces when you live in a tall apartment building, but we were able to get it fixed. Thank you for your warm wishes!

  4. sarahinguangzhou February 6, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Looks really frightening. Some of the apartments I stayed in China were like that, the ones supplied by the schools mostly with really dodgy wiring and school maintenance guy would always say ‘no is ok’.
    You wonder what qualifications the tradespeople have.

    • gkm2011 February 6, 2014 at 8:24 pm #

      I wondered myself about the repairman who came and told us there was no issue. He looked about 15 years old, but I have stopped judging on appearance after I found out my cleaning lady had a kid in college!

  5. Every Day Adventures in Asia February 6, 2014 at 7:47 pm #

    Yipes! Glad a potential disaster was prevented! I’ve had a lot of things conk out on me and.. with the terribly wiring of most homes in India, gotten used to things shorting out, catching a bit on fire. So far no major disasters except for the upstairs neighbours washing machine breaking and flooding our kitchen and living room!

    • gkm2011 February 6, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

      Flooding… Fingers crossed that has not yet happened to me! Fire and water together, really not a good combo.

  6. CrazyChineseFamily February 6, 2014 at 11:40 pm #

    Wow, havent seen such melted plug for a long time. I think last time it was from a building dating back to 1935 with original wiring. Hope you won’t get any further little disasters and stay for a while without replacing stuff 🙂

    • gkm2011 February 6, 2014 at 11:41 pm #

      Me too! And I know the oldest this building could be is 10 years old. Makes me wonder…

  7. Chinadoll February 8, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

    oh god.. That looks so scary! Thankfully you discovered it soon enough! I would’ve been scared of using the heater again :/ Good your both ok and nothing else happened !

    • gkm2011 February 9, 2014 at 9:00 am #

      Thanks, I was nervous the week or so after – makes me look at plugs in a whole new way!

  8. expatlingo February 9, 2014 at 6:41 am #

    Yikes! Scary stuff. Glad you caught it in time.

    • gkm2011 February 9, 2014 at 9:01 am #

      Me too! Hopefully now I have learned to trust my nose.

  9. Shhh… Don’t say those words again. Your belongs can hear you and will break down for you to replace. 😉

  10. Matt February 22, 2014 at 6:26 am #

    I don’t know about strangest, but recently I had some fun with my refrigerator light bulb:

    My apartment refrigerator door only closes 99.5%; the food stays cold, but the light bulb “off” switch isn’t triggered. So for months the light was on pretty much all the time, until it finally burned out. And I’m low-maintenance and living alone, so I went without fridge light for the next few months. But I eventually had it replaced, and I was back to square one until two months ago while my parents were visiting.

    At one point I pulled my water-filter pitcher out to pour a glass of water and noticed some weird billowy, spider web-like strands by the glass’ lip. I eventually traced the strands to the pitcher, and I noticed an area where the removable plastic lid had melted into the top of the vessel. Apparently when I returned to pitcher to the fridge at one point, the top of the pitcher made contact with the “always-on” bulb, and the heat from the bulb melted the plastic and began fusing the lid and container together! The spidery strands I saw were freshly melted plastic.

    I taped the fridge light switch into the “off” position as a temporary measure, and removed the bulb once it had cooled down. Later, I engineered a solution, whereas I taped some cardboard onto the inside of the fridge door across from the switch. Now the bulb turns off normally when the door closes. And I threw away the damaged filter pitcher: I needed a new one even before it melted. The replacement is slightly shorter, negating any chance of future bulb contact.

    So not quite as harrowing, but I like the story parallels!

    • gkm2011 March 9, 2014 at 9:55 am #

      Yes – yours seems a little safer – our air conditioner issue really freaked us out for quite some time. Met with our landlord for dinner last night and had to relive the entire experience again. Uggh. Still gives me shudders.


  1. The eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth quarter review | 中国 Jumble - October 22, 2014

    […] Replacing things in the new year (part 2) – My saga regarding the main air conditioner in our apartment where I narrowly missed an electrical fire thanks to the circuit breaker flipping. […]

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